The Happytime Murders was panned with negative reviews in its release last week, but there are some redeeming factors.
In concept, this is to have a crime-stricken world of puppets, with it being orchestrated by director Brian Henson, son of the late and great Jim Henson responsible for The Muppets, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street.
The idea is quite interesting. Just as the audience used to watch these series as children and now grown up, the puppet creatures have become just as humanised and flawed as the rest of us.
The way in which the puppetry is performed is also quite brilliant, as the Henson team has always been able to make the puppets seem like they were truly moving, using various visual and practical effects. It’s clear hard work and effort went into the film on a production level.
The film begins to slog with the script. Narrative-wise, the plot focuses on a puppet ex-police officer turned private investigator who has to unite with his ex-partner to solve the recent string of murders revolving around an old television show.
Should you change the puppet characters to real people, you have a classic crime film, if not a bit clichéd. The puppet magic gifts the film with an identity, although it could easily be considered a cheap gimmick to gain some laughs.
Moreover, the puppets of the film’s universe are considered second-class citizens, treated with racial prejudice and bias, illustrating that even in a seemingly happy world, the tragedy of drugs, crime and societal duplicity due to racial segregation corrupts and tarnishes society’s morals.
It’s very similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in terms of its racism allegory, yet it works.
What doesn’t work, however, is the writing. With a bit of work, this could be a great film, yet it’s bogged down by such immaturity and shock-humour that it tends to leave an audience bored.
That’s not to say all audiences won’t enjoy it, but the crude humour, in this reviewer’s opinion, ruins the movie. Even with the jokes that aren’t crude, quite a lot just fail to deliver laughs.
Humour is purely subjective, although the general consensus is this film hasn’t been able to deliver comedy on a broad scale.
Additionally, this is a shame, as again, narratively, the film works well, especially with the protagonist’s character arc.
Furthermore, the character is very much a noir protagonist, which again depicts there was effort when constructing the film.
And yet, some jokes are quite creative and do work, especially with the ways Henson depicts the puppet crime scenes with a sense of cute brutality.
It’s true there are things to dislike about the film, and it’s certainly far from perfect, but the film does have redeeming qualities. Again, the puppetry itself is quite flawless, and both the narrative, premise and character arcs in the film were quite well done. It’s just the stupidity of juvenile ‘comedy’ that tarnish the film from being great, to being passable.
The film is clearly aimed at older audiences, but I have a feeling most viewers will be too mature to find what they’re viewing as funny.
Acting from the human characters, such as Melissa McCarthy, is exactly what you expect from her. If you enjoy her work, you will most likely enjoy this.
It is hard to wholeheartedly recommend The Happytime Murders, but if you’re scrolling through television one night and it happens to be on, you could spend 90 minutes entertained.
MOVIE RATING: 5/10 Torpedoes
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